PhotoView 360 rendering tips: make them more interesting!

PhotoView 360 is a great photorealistic rendering platform that is built right into SolidWorks. I have been using it for nearly 10 years professionally, and believe it is the best option for rendering any non-organic object. This article is a continuation of an older post here on GrabCAD, and is focused more on how to use some of the more advanced tools to make better scenes, more interesting compositions, and more dramatic lighting.


In the examples below, I will be using a ping pong paddle, and a ping pong table. If you would like to tinker with the model I used in this presentation, you can download it here. (Original model credits can be found at the end of this post.)

Understand Composition

One thing all great renderings have is an interesting composition. The best renderings make use of interesting angles, camera zoom levels, and depth of field. Get yourself very familiar with how to manipulate all of these settings, and you will find that your renderings will become much more pleasing to the eye. Personally, getting this composition nailed-down is the first thing that I do with any rendering. Before I apply materials, modify the scene and lighting, or anything else, I figure out how I want to display the design I’m rendering. In my findings, the easiest way to manipulate each of these is with exploded views, and cameras.

Exploded Views

I use the exploded view tool because it allows me to move and rotate parts without permanently changing where these parts are. It allows me to toggle between different ways of displaying a design without having different files. It saves a ton of time because you can use the settings in one file for multiple arrangements. In other words, I will create an exploded view with each display arrangement, moving, and rotating my parts in positions that suit my rendering needs.



To create my views, I add cameras to my scene and use the camera view for my rendering. I create a different camera for each composition I make, so I can switch between them easily. The big benefit of using the camera tool (instead of, say, using the perspective option in your view settings) is you have a lot more control over how your final view looks, as well as some other awesome functions that make your rendering look more realistic.

For those who are not familiar with traditional photography practices, you really should learn the basics. A ton of those practices transfer directly into rendering in SolidWorks, including the terminology in the camera settings. For example, if you adjust the depth of field settings in your SolidWorks camera correctly, you can get a nice focal blur that can really set your rendering off. Observe the two renderings below.

The first example shows what the rendering looks like with depth of field, and the other one shows it without. Notice the slight blur added to the net in the background? Details like this can make a big difference in how realistic your rendering looks.






The scene


One of my favorite things about GrabCAD, is it is a seemingly limitless source of truly fantastic 3D models, made by users. This includes entire office spaces, ping pong tables, desks, chairs, keyboards, monitors, mice, and phones (OMG SO MANY IPHONES.). Many of these models could compliment a design you have very well. Making a design for a unique iPhone dock? Download an office desk, a computer monitor, and a keyboard from GrabCAD.

Place the iPhone dock on the desk, along with an arrangement of the keyboard and mouse. Make good use of the camera angle to focus on your design, and voila! You just made a fantastic lifestyle rendering of your design, in its “natural habitat”. In many cases, this will look so much better than your boring old simple rendering on an all-white background. (Don’t get me wrong, the all-white background has its merits, but I’ll get into that later).

The ping pong paddle example that I’m using makes use of nothing but models downloaded from GrabCAD, which are then assembled and rendered.

Scene settings

There are a number of useful scene settings that have a dramatic impact on the look of your image as a whole. Among other things, these settings allow you to control the overall brightness of the rendering, the brightness of the background, and the rotation of the scene. For example, if you have a rendering that’s shiny, you may find that the scene features a light in an awkward place, and you end up with a reflection that makes the final image look awful. Using the scene rotation setting will allow you to rotate the entire scene and its lighting, thus changing the locations in which these reflections appear on your rendering. This is a much better method than trying to modify your material settings (or worse, sacrificing the reflectivity altogether!).

Dramatic lightning can make a big difference

After your scene has been placed, something else that can be beneficial is creating your own lighting. Toning down the scene brightness, and adding a spotlight or two can really jazz up a rendering, and put more focus on a specific detail. For example, if you were rendering a design for an alarm clock, you could get a night stand from GrabCAD, the clock you designed, and a lamp. Put a spotlight inside of the lamp to make it look like the lamp is casting the light, and let that light the scene instead of simply using ambient light supplied from the scene.

Coming back to the ping pong example, you could darken the entire scene, and put a spotlight on the paddles. This puts more emphasis on the paddles, but still keeps the rest of the scene in the image.


Closing Remarks

When I’m making renderings for my clients, I like to create a few renderings that use more dramatic angles, and props so they can see a “lifestyle” take on the proposed design. In addition to that, I will also create more-simple renderings that focus on nothing but the design. This gives the client the best of both worlds. The lifestyle rendering provides them with an image that shows what the design could look like in everyday life, while the detail rendering provides them with a closer look at the design itself. Understand the role of each piece of the rendering (composition, lighting, and materials) and you will find that great looking renderings will come almost automatically to you.

Original Model Credits: